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Top 5 Best Practices that Defines a Successful Wellness Program

Over recent years, more companies are incorporating wellness initiatives into their office environment. It’s mission critical in today’s competitive markets, to attracting and retain the best talents. One crucial measurement is the engagement levels of everyone in the entire organization. Presenteeism is at an all-time high. People are not motivated by money alone, and wellness programs are part of the strategy to improve job satisfaction and productivity. However, only a few companies actually have comprehensive programs that produce better health outcomes among employees. As a result, improved engagement and performance at work naturally follows since employees are healthier and happier.
Unfortunately not all health and wellness programs are successful. The first one or two initiatives may gain traction, but two years on, and the participation rates decline. One main problem is that the participants themselves aren’t part of the creation. Their needs and concerns aren’t addressed so there’s less motivation for them to commit. So what do employees want? Here are 5 best practices that help create successful corporate wellbeing programs that gain true engagement.

  1. Programs Are Doable, Accessible and Sustainable

Imagine a wellness talk or fitness class is starting in 15 minutes. Many employees easily dismiss it and think “I’d love to go, but I really need to get this work done.” Do programs run when employees are most busy? Are run after office hours? And if so, will people stay back for it? Is the wellness program a broad-based and holistic approach? Or is it just yoga classes, cooking demonstrations and nothing else?
Is it easy for participants to learn? What looks easy when a trained chef prepares a healthy dinner in 20 minutes could take the average person a lot more time, energy and stress. Are steps provided for one to implement the new habit, accomplish their goal and sustain the success?
A comprehensive wellness initiative needs to offer a variety of scheduled programs that are broken down into achievable, sustainable habits that create a valuable outcome. Equally important is that employees can choose what they are interested in, and easily fit into their schedule.

  1. The Work Environment Is Health-Conscious

It’s no use having health and wellness programs if the physical and psychosocial environment within the office doesn’t support to healthy habits. Great office design that support wellbeing has been the trend since Facebook and Google showed us how to do it.
Creating creative spaces for smaller pod meetings, having standing desks and ensuring the cafeteria and vending machines around the office offer healthier food choices that can be easily seen are some of the simple ways to encourage good health. Ensuring regulated noise, inspiring music, good air quality and temperature and adequate lighting are also simple yet impactful features of a great office space.
Allowing ‘down’ times, and work breaks that are encouraged is essential. Most people don’t take breaks or chit-chat because of its negative perception. However, this is absolutely necessary as it creates real interaction and real friendships between co-workers that satisfy the basic human need for social connections. People need other people to love, trust and support them, in both business tasks as well as at a personal level.

  1. Wellness Is Integrated Into The Company’s Structure

Further to point 2 above, choosing a healthier lifestyle and doing well at work shouldn’t feel like a tug-of-war. I’ve heard of companies who pay for gym memberships for their staff, which is great. However, when an employee is working out in the gym, they get a phone call saying they need to get back in the office because of … (some reason). Therefore it’s important that a company establishes wellness programs that are valued and honored in every aspect of the organization. Otherwise, what’s the point? Another example includes the holy grail of “work-life balance”. If your company wants employees to be healthy and have better work-life integration, yet at the same time silently imposes that people must continue working beyond standard office hours, it really does not make any sense. One (partial) solution to this is introducing flexi-hours as well as remote working to allow people to get errands and family engagements done, as well as work from home, or a cafe instead of being physically in the office. It’s a partial solution because giving someone the ability to run errands and come to work later than usual is great, though it does not necessarily promote health, happiness or well-being.

  1. Wellness Is Linked To Continued Support Programs

When a company is genuinely concerned about their employees’ wellbeing, they will naturally ensure that any wellness initiative, game or workshop has some form of continuation. Employee assistance programs (EAP) are common for mental health concerns, however, there needs to be other support systems in place for other health concerns. In 2014, Apple’s Cupertino, Calif.-based headquarters boasted a medical one-stop-shop “wellness center” offering in-house chiropractic care, dieticians and more. Collective Works, Singapore, the largest premium co-working space in Asia, now also houses an in-house chiropractor, specializing in pain relief, peak performance for both individual and corporate health.
Gamification of corporate health programs usually run for a certain period of time. Workshops and classes may run for 8 weeks or throughout the entire year. Although participation rates are high initially, continued support programs are what sustains engagement, and creates the change both individuals and the CEO’s want to see. Engagement is what creates long-term sustainable results.

  1. Broad-based Approach

Wellness Programs aren’t all about offering free gym membership or just having smoking cessation programs. Health is health – a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being. Fitness is “the ability to perform work (sports, occupations and daily activities) satisfactorily”. Pilates is a great way to exercise and strengthen the core muscles, however, it is not equivalent to health.
A lot of people know they should quit smoking but doesn’t because they don’t realize how much damage it can do to their body. They may not have a strategy, nor enough motivation to make those changes. One method of offering voluntary health screenings while giving sound education and simple tasks from a variety of professionals is the key. Helping people realize that the company does care, that their colleagues do care, that they too should care about their own health is of the greatest importance. Digging deep, and creating a safe place to improve their lifestyle choices on multiple levels should be the basis of every corporate wellbeing initiative.
About the Author
Dr. Gary Tho is the owner of Chiropractic Works, a Family Sports and Wellness clinic in Orchard Road, Singapore. He specializes in pain relief and preventative care and believes quality life is essential for happiness, success and peak performance. Dr. Gary is also the author of The Pain-Free Desk Warrior, Free yourself from aches and pains which is the definitive guide for those stuck at their desk for more than 2 hours a day.